While the above predictions are all well and good, it's worth it to take a look at Arthur C. Clarke
's own track record before we begin to giggle with glee the Universal Replicator
and Quantum Generators
. The following is a list of predictions made by him in his 1963 book Profiles of the Future
. A similar chart appears in the back summarizing his beliefs in the events of the future. The chart differs from the one above mainly in the broadness
and generality of its ideas; some of the events mentioned above are almost guaranteed to occur (for instance, the return of Halley's Comet
, the Cassini
space mission, etc.)
On the other hands, some of the other events in the timeline are just sad reminders of the doddering state of Arthur C. Clarke's intelligence, and his further decent into senility. For some unknown reason, in several recent interviews, he seems convinced that cold fusion exists and that small cold fusion
generators are widely used in homes across Russia
Nevertheless, here's Arthur C. Clarke's timeline of the future, from 1970 to 2100.
Earth probes (i.e into the earth's core)
Not much happens
Meeting with extra-terrestrials
Radio (essentially a cellphone)
Coding of artifacts
Machine intelligence exceeds man's
Efficient electric storage
Planetary engineering (i.e. terraforming)
Biology and Chemistry
Time and Perception enhancement
Control of heredity.
Space and time distortion
It's quite clear how many of the predictions Clarke
made have not yet occurred -- things such as fusion power, nuclear rockets, and artificial intelligence. On the other hand, such things as the global library and bioengineering exist far before his predicted date. This is a sign of how difficult making accurate predictions is.
To some extent, this is also a continuing example of our inability to learn from our mistakes. Or: Nothing succeeds as planned. Or: Every Change is for the Worse. Meaning: we are all acquainted with the stories of predictions gone terribly awry. 640K is good enough for everyone, there's a world market for only 5 computers, No machine heavier than air will ever fly, etc. In the past 50 years, as a way to stop repeating these mistakes from the past, prognosticators just did the opposite -- instead of healthy pessimism, we were brimming with dumb-faced optimism. Flying cars! Nuclear fusion! Super-intelligent laser-monkey-slaves! While the first half of the century was a time of exceeded expectations, it seems safe to say that the second half was one of unfulfilled expectations. Try to keep that in mind next time you're gushing about the latest futuristic, wireless, virtual reality, genetically modified universe you've read about in Wired or Popular Science.